Cappadocia, Turkey, travel guide and things to do: nine highlights

THE SINGLE FLIGHT

Cappadocia’s extraordinary landscapes – all the bizarre rock stacks, phallic-looking fairy chimneys, and mountainsides that look like dragons’ teeth – are best viewed from above. Luckily, it’s the hot air balloon capital of the world. Dozens of balloons float through the sky each morning, and being part of the armada is a key factor in the spectacle. Voyager Balloons is one of the many operators that take to the skies of Cappadocia. See travelballoons.com

THE ONLY WALK

Walking in Cappadocia satjul30Cappadocia Images provided by Exodus Travels Exodus Travels’ Walking in Cappadocia

Photo: Exodus Travels

The Red Valley near Göreme is packed with so many highlights of the region. Following the rust-red stream, it includes hoodoos, seemingly impossibly high caves carved out of rock faces, and excavated dovecotes. The apricot and walnut trees evoke the fertility of the valley, while the pinks and reds of the rocks change color as the sun rises in the sky.

THE UNIQUE MUSEUM

The Goreme Open Air Museum is a former monastic complex, with an amazing collection of chapels, refectory halls and rock-cut chambers. The frescoes inside these cave chapels are in very good condition, considering that many are around 1000 years old. A visit becomes something of an art history lesson, as you can see the evolution of styles over the centuries.

THE ONLY HOTEL

Yunak Evleri in Urgup has an unmistakable wow factor. Here, 10 separate cave houses have been joined together in a breathtaking mountainside complex. Inside, the rooms have carefully selected traditional furnishings. Outside, the pools have their own little grottos to explore, and the restaurant terrace has stunning views across the valley. Fares start from A$160. See yunak.com

THE ONLY MEAL

Cappadocia Home Cooking is both a restaurant and a cooking school. It’s inside a family home that has grown as more and more people come to cut herbs from the garden and fry eggplant with three generations of residents. Once those beef-stuffed eggplants have simmered, it’s time for the feast, complete with breads, sauces, bites and desserts the family prepared earlier. See cappadociahomecooking.com

THE ONLY CRAFTSMAN

The town of Avanos is famous for its ceramics. At Galip, Galip Korukcu, look-alike of Albert Einstein, continues his family business. The master potter nonchalantly creates his works with a traditional pedalboard, but the real art is in the decoration. A network of caves acts as an exhibition hall, and the gloriously colorful array of vases, plates, cups and bowls allows most visitors to check their baggage allowance. See www.chezgalip.com

THE UNIQUE RITUAL

Inside the awe-inspiring 13th-century Saruhan Caravanserei, the nightly ceremony of the whirling dervishes is utterly mesmerizing. Many visitors expect a slightly cheesy dance performance, but it’s so much more than that. It is a Sufi Muslim ritual, where participants go into a trance and turn methodically, representing the soul entering the heavens. It’s trippy, it’s hypnotic and it’s hugely memorable. See saruhan1249.com

THE ONLY UNDERGROUND ADVENTURE

The maze of claustrophobic tunnels in Derinkuyu Underground City is deliberately cramped and narrow. Built between the 5th and 10th centuries, this underground complex was designed for self-defense rather than comfort. The locals feared the Arab invaders, and the deeper one goes into the underground city, the more one realizes that it was an obstacle course of defensive traps.

THE SINGLE CELLAR

It’s pretty rare to see Turkish wine outside of Turkey, but the Turasan winery in Urgup is doing its best to dispel nagging fears that it could all be undrinkable. Tasting sessions feature Turkish varietals such as Cherry Chocolate Okuzgozu. But the local grape, made only in Cappadocia, is the Emir grape. It gives crisp and delicate wines with notes of apple, pear and citrus. See turasan.com.tr

ONE MORE THING

The spread of attractions and questionable public transport make Cappadocia ideal for group tours. Go there on your own, and it quickly becomes a logistical headache. Exodus Travels is making a concerted effort to elevate its nine-day premium tour above the generic by including a series of signature experiences, such as expert-guided walks and homemade breakfasts in a lavender field atop the mountain. ‘a hill. Trips cost from $4099 excluding flights. See exodustravels.com

The writer traveled as a guest of Exodus Travels.

Leave a Comment